Spring of Hope Within a Winter of Despair

Peter & Elizabeth Vincent

Peter and Elizabeth Vincent live in Glasgow where Peter was Senior Pastor of Glasgow City Church until 2015. Peter served in local church leadership for nearly 50 years and accumulated a wealth of experience and insight from his nationally and internationally recognised apostolic ministry, having served on the National Leadership Team of the Apostolic Church (UK) and as chairman of its missionary arm, Action Overseas.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”

Charles Dickens; A Tale of Two Cities

There’s an almost prophetic element to Dickens’ novel. He was referring to a time of contradictions. The two cities referred to were London and Paris during the turmoil of the French Revolution. For the oppressed citizens of 18th-century France, the revolution’s proclamation of the rights of man was indeed a “spring of hope.” But for those of the outgoing political system, it was a “winter of despair,” leading to death and destruction.

We are passing through a similar paradox today.  Just some thoughts to encourage all my spiritual brothers and sisters that, even in the worst of times, we are always in the best of times because of Christ.

We are in both.

The best of times with such a variety of sciences and technology making our lives so good and making life much easier, healthier, wealthier and happier. We are arguably more prosperous than ever before, even able to travel around the world in hours.

And yet, the irony is that it is the worst of times when people are enslaved by the very same technology – smart phones, laptops, health regimes, pursuit of wealth, to name but a stress-filled few. And couple all that with the rapid rise of life-threatening global pandemics, terrorism, earthquakes, tsunamis, wars, unrest, political divisions and deceit … it all makes for a real drama of incongruity.

Strange times indeed, but perhaps, for the spiritually aware, strategic times! God is in no way, and can never be, ‘locked down’ by any situation. He is demonstrating that fact daily by the way He is at work miraculously even during this bleak season.

It is also an indisputable fact that this season is an opportunity for the Church to re-assess the direction it must take post-Covid. It is pretty obvious, in my view, that within the Covid-19 context God has undoubtedly intervened in the onward life and times of the Church.

A host of Spirit-led leaders have and are offering their helpful prophetic thoughts, opinions, insights and suggestions, both written and spoken, regarding this season. The good news is, we are on our way and going in the right direction.

In my reading of Scripture lately, I have been greatly inspired to see some remarkable parallels between the current ‘Church’ situation, with the Men of Isaachar as recorded in I Chronicles 12.

These were the men who came to join King David at Hebron. One suggested meaning of Hebron is quite interesting – society, friendship, togetherness. Thank God for a forum of like-minded brothers and sisters in spirit and unity.

David is being anointed to be king. The oil is very significant and he receives God’s power as a consequence. He is to supersede King Saul, of whom the Scriptures say rather drastically, “The Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul.” (I Samuel 16:13-14).  The parallels of the whole episode do seem to be quite pertinent to our situation today. It’s worth a study.

Lessons from the Men of Isaachar

  • They understood the times (12:32). The Bible has a lot to say about ‘times’. So do the ‘signs’.
  • They knew what Israel should do (12:32-33, 38). They established and followed King David as their leader.
  • They re-evaluated their position in the ‘battle’ (12:33-38). They were warriors, servants, volunteers. We too should refresh our understanding of who we are and what we have in Christ.
  • They have an undivided heart (12:38). They are determined, focussed, united.
  • They had one purpose (12:38). David was going to be their king.
  • With the king in place, they identify a real problem (13:3). They identify neglect of the Ark and of the Presence of God. This is represented for us by the Holy Spirit in the church. “Surely the neglect of the Holy Spirit is one of the greatest scandals of the 21st Century church?” (John Caldwell; The Lion’s Roar: A Prophetic Wake-up Call to the Church) This is relevant to both cessationalists and Pentecostal/charismatic sensationalists alike.

Lessons from King David

  • He prepared: himself (15:1); a place for the Ark (15:1); the leaders (15:2-15); the people (15:16-18); the music (15:19-22)
  • His actions spoke louder than words (15:25-28). He gets on with it! God does the rest!

Lessons along the way

  • God’s eternal purpose overrules everything else in the universe. Take heart. He is in total control.  (Eph. 1:22-23)
  • God intervenes in His own time and in His own way.
  • God helped them to recognise the vital significance of the centrality of His Presence. The world needs the presence of the church – to be salt and light. The church needs the presence of Jesus, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to be that salt and light.
  • God’s Ways – and not man’s ways, however well-intentioned they may be – are always the right ways, and He demands simple obedience.
  • Failure is not a terminus. Thank God!!
  • Opposition, mockery and hatred will accompany the course (– see Michal in 15:29).
  • God’s favour and blessing are found in His Presence alone; and they follow faith and obedience.

God has a wonderful way of bringing the best out of the worst, of turning setbacks into springboards. In Christ, there is always a spring of hope, even in a winter of despair.

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